Drug Abuse vs. Drug Addiction: What’s the Difference?
The difference between drug abuse and drug addiction is small, but it’s there. Drug abuse is when you are using a drug recreationally but not in the way in which it was intended to be used. For example, if you take Percocet during a rave to help yourself have a good time, but not for your pain related to your surgery you had a year ago. You don’t need to take the Percocet to function, but you want to take it to enhance your experience at the rave. Drug addiction is when you have to take a drug at regular intervals throughout the day to function or to avoid symptoms of withdrawal. An example of this would be having to take Percocet throughout the day to avoid being nauseous, shaky, or in pain. Drug addiction starts with a person abusing drugs, but not everyone that uses drugs will become addicted. For example, someone can smoke weed once or twice at a party but not need to do it all the time. Conversely, someone can smoke weed a few times and then want to try other drugs, like cocaine. After trying cocaine a few times, that person can develop a need to use more and more cocaine to achieve the high that they had with their first cocaine experience -- this is the beginning of an addiction.
Ways to Cope with Drug Addiction
Here are some methods to help you cope with a drug addiction. This list is not intended to be medical advice. If you think you have a problem with drug addiction, you should ask for help from a medical professional immediately.
1. Recognize that you have a problem.
The first, and probably the most important, step in coping with drug addiction is recognizing that you have an addiction. You may notice that you are wanting to do drugs outside of a party setting, away from other people, and more often than usual. You may notice that if you don’t take drugs, your work and personal life are not enjoyable, and you cannot do things that you normally would do. If this sounds like you, you may have a problem with drug addiction.
2. Understand the warning signals of addiction.
Drug addiction has both physical and mental warning signals, and it’s important to understand both. Physical warning signs of being addicted to drugs include: feeling sick when trying to stop using drugs, shaking, changes in weight (loss or gain), and having to take more of the drug to get the same experience you had the first time you used it. Mental warning signals of drug addiction can include: needing drugs to get through everyday tasks, withdrawing from family and/or friends, only hanging out with friends that do drugs, and increased anxiety, depression, or mood swings. This is not an all-inclusive list, but these are important things to watch out for.
3. Ask for help.
Drug addiction is not something you can solve alone, and the symptoms and side effects are things that you will need support to get through. If you think you may be addicted to drugs, find a close friend or relative that you feel comfortable talking to and tell them about your struggle. You never know, there may be people close to you that are going through something very similar and know how to get you the help you need. Stopping drug use is very difficult to do on your own, and there is nothing wrong with seeking professional help for drug addiction.
4. Talk about it.
Drug addiction is something that many people have suffered from, and there is no reason to do it alone. Talking to someone who has been in your shoes and gotten through recovery can be extremely helpful, especially during challenging times when you may want to go back to using drugs. Increased anxiety and depression during a drug addiction is another reason to reach out, those feelings should never be dealt with alone. These feelings can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions, and there are people out there who can help you get through it.
5. Be an active participant in your recovery.
If you have decided to stop using drugs, there are many things you can do to help move your recovery along. Avoid people and places that encourage you to do drugs. Find a sponsor that has been through something similar and talk to them when you feel like you want to use drugs. Talk to your friends and family about your decision to stop using drugs, and ask them to support you.
Hopefully, this list has provided you with some ways to cope with drug addiction and ways to identify if you or someone you care about may be addicted to drugs. Remember, it is always best to seek help from a licensed professional for drug addiction.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.
This is a great article from the National Institute on Drug Abuse that goes into detail about what drug abuse is and how it can be treated and prevented.
This article from WebMD is an in-depth look at the signs and symptoms of drug addiction.